What defines American food culture? It’s a question with any number of suitable answers. “Melting pot,” for one; The Melting Pot, the national chain fondue restaurant that traffics in such delicious cardiovascular assaults as “Top Shelf Fiesta Fondue” and “The Flaming Turtle” (??), also works. Our national culinary values are, in sum, extremely nebulous, pretty over-the-top, and by most medical standards, full of things that are not good for your body — no shade to molten dairy products.

But Sophie Egan, director of programs and culinary nutrition for the Strategic Initiatives Group at the Culinary Institute of America, may have hit on what unites all of our diets. In her new book Devoured: From Chicken Wings to Kale Smoothies — How What We Eat Defines Who We Are, Egan identifies one of the fundamental things we have in common: the roided-up American work ethic, which is either the source of our inevitable demise or the key to our national success, depending on who you ask.

“I felt tired of hearing that there’s nothing that really unites us on a national level as eaters,” Egan told me by phone. “And I set out to find out what those [shared] traits and values and ways of relating to food really were.”